U.S. Airways' "Commitment To Excellence" Has Nothing To Do With Your Customer Service Problem

Many of us are continually finding ourselves trapped in Byzantine mazes of bad customer service, where we keep ending up in the same dead-ends with the same undesirable options. And if you dare question the company about its public declarations of quality service and the like, you’re likely to be told that such claims don’t apply to your situation.

Just ask photographer, author and blogger and Scott Kelby, who recently detailed his ongoing ordeal with U.S. Airways over something that should be incredibly easy to resolve — frequent flier miles.

Scott was recently notified by U.S. Airways that his 81,000 accrues miles were about to expire because he hadn’t flown with the carrier since 2008. Problem was, he had flown with them — twice — and he could prove it.

So I called US Airways, referenced my two missing flights from 2009, and asked if they would reinstate my miles. They said a resounding “No!” The customer service rep said I hadn’t supplied my Dividend Miles number when booking the trips, so those US Airways flights (even though they can see on my account that I took them), don’t count, and they’re keeping my miles.

A travel agent actually books my flights, and they apparently didn’t give US Airways my number. Well, I asked “couldn’t we just add those in now? You see them right there on your computer?”The less than helpful US Air Customer Service rep told me that they couldn’t just add my number now, because it’s outside their time limit to do so. I would have had to catch the mistake last year…

I mentioned to her that in each issue of US Airways in-flight magazine is a letter from Doug Parker, US Airways Chairman and CEO, and I had remembered reading his letter on one of my US Airways flights where he talked about his customer service group’s “Commitment to excellence,” and about creating a truly great airline, and I asked her if this was an example of that commitment to US Airways customers he was talking about? She paused, then told me (I am not making this up), his letter had nothing to do with my situation.

The customer service rep kept leading down the same path to the same three options for reinstating his miles: 1) Pay $300; 2) Get a U.S. Airways Visa card; 3) Pay for a first-class ticket on the airline.

He chose option #4: Taking his business elsewhere:

My company flies literally hundreds of people around the world all year long. We fly over 100 staff and instructors just to our two Photoshop World conferences alone, plus we fly an entire team to our 80+ seminars around the world each year, plus all the conferences, workshops, and events we hold and/or attend each year. How many of those do you think we’ll be booking on US Airways going forward?

How US Airways Just Lost Yet Another Customer [ScottKelby.com]

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  1. Angus99 says:

    The customer is always right. Except now. And…..now. Oh, and this time, too. Plus that other time, also. Other than that, the customer is always right.

    (I don’t really believe the customer is always right, but I believe where airlines are concerned, it’s safer to operate on the assumptions they’ll NEVER think you’re right.)

    • c!tizen says:

      No, that saying goes back to the old days where store employees were only allowed to stand on the customers left hand side.

    • Pax says:

      The truth behind “the Customer is always Right” isn’t that they’re never wrong, it’s that you should never TELL them they’re wrong. Apologise for the misunderstanding; apologise for not being clear enough; apologise for the inconvenience. But Never. Tell. Them. They. Are. Wrong.

      At least, not until you decide you no longer want them to be a customer. Because saying “you’re wrong” is almost never received well.

      • puppylove says:

        Pax, “The Customer Is Always Right” is a bunch of bullshit. Sometimes customers need to be told to fuck off, in so many ways, if not those words in particular.

        Sometimes managers need to stand up for their employees against harassment by customers.

        Not every customer is worth keeping. A good business knows that sometimes there is more to life than just money.

        If you don’t give a shit about your employees and all you want is money, then sure, act like the customer is always right.

        http://positivesharing.com/2006/07/why-the-customer-is-always-right-results-in-bad-customer-service/

      • puppylove says:

        Pax, “The Customer Is Always Right” is a bunch of bullshit. Sometimes customers need to be told to fuck off, in so many ways, if not those words in particular.

        Sometimes managers need to stand up for their employees against harassment by customers.

        Not every customer is worth keeping. A good business knows that sometimes there is more to life than just money.

        If you don’t give a shit about your employees and all you want is money, then sure, act like the customer is always right.

  2. dragonfire81 says:

    You were dealing with a call center rep who was following script and policy. Yes it was a minor detail, but technically the flights that were taken in 2009 weren’t booked correctly to count as far as the rewards miles are concerned.

    I know it’s dumb and ridiculous, but that’s how it is at a call center: Follow policy and be a heartless dirtbag or be fired. I’m dead serious about this (I used to work at one).

    • Mom says:

      Yes, but some call centers actually have ways of escalating stupid situations like this up to someone who has the authority to deal with the problem. Apparently US Airways isn’t one of those companies.

      • Raekwon says:

        And in others if you escalate things you get docked pay and/or fired. This is why many call center reps now claim there is no escalation or supervisor.

        • dragonfire81 says:

          This was NOT the case at my call center, but it certainly seems plausible given how much bullshit flies around those places.

    • DovS says:

      And that is why the powerless outsourced call center is a flawed business model. They save a few bucks on customer service and lose thousands in customer business.

    • sleze69 says:

      Yep. Try an EECB. I have had luck with my US Airways CC where the CEO of US Air got me in touch with some higher ups at barclay’s bank.

  3. working class Zer0 says:

    “Commitment to Excellence”
    That’s one of them, there mission statements that are just perrty words. You don’t actually have to follow it, you just have to have one.

  4. Gulliver says:

    You take SOOO many trips that you have taken two since 2008? And you couldn’t be bothered to point out on the day you were flying that the travel agent did not log your miles? I always love how people who say they are the most loyal and important customer, but the facts just don’t back them up. You are an occasional flyer. I also question the validity that the miles were actually earned flying. If that were the case, he would have been offered pre boarding AND these “missed” miles would have been documented then.
    How is your asking for somethign special any different than this one:
    http://consumerist.com/2010/11/customer-forgets-doggie-bag-demands-gift-certificate.html

    You forgot something, and now want US Air to reimburse you for your forgetfulness. Maybe you should talk to your travel agent about their inability to properly book flights.

    • feistydonut says:

      Are you serious? He flew and earned the miles from the 2 trips that didn’t get added. It’s not like he’s asking for something for nothing. The miles weren’t added and now he looses the ones he’s already earned on a technicality. All he wants is for them to fix the mistake but they are either unwilling or can’t. Front line employees aren’t in any way empowered to solve these types of problems and maybe the person he talked to gets scam calls all day, but he’s not scamming anyone. He clearly talked to a cs rep who 1)hates her job/customers (for that moment) and 2)is not interested in escalating this to make it right.

      • ma1234 says:

        It was HIS mistake. US Airways gives you one year from the flight’s operation to add your FF account number. He didn’t. His loss!

        Air miles are a liability, a huge one at that. Airlines can’t rack up unclaimed air miles in their accounting books infinitely because of a customer is lazy. His fault. US Airways has done nothing wrong.

        • Pax says:

          Actually, it was the travel agent’s mistake, not the OP’s. RTFA.

        • crazedhare says:

          I challenge your premise that unclaimed miles are a liability for the airlines based on their policy of absolutely leaving those miles open if the customer flies often enough. That is, the 81,000 miles would NOT have expired if additional miles had been logged in the interim. That the miles would have been saved in the event of more frequent interim flights leads me to believe that the expiration of the miles is semi-punitive in nature, designed as a subtle threat or pressure to force occasional fliers to select US Airways more often. If there was truly the kind of concern you posit, old miles would expire regardless of interim activity. Your theory doesn’t add up.

    • crazedhare says:

      Frankly, the comparable situation is NOT the customer asking for a gift certificate for the doggy bag she forgot. In the situation for the OP here, the comparable situation would be a customer coming back to the restaurant, and being told “Well, we have your doggy bag sitting right here on the table but you can’t have it.”

      • Gulliver says:

        No, it is not the same. In this situation, the OP is being even more unreasonable. He had a YEAR from the date of the flights he took in 2009 to “fix” the mistake of HIS travel agent. He could not be bothered. Then when he wants something, he decides it is important enough to whine about it. What he is asking, is the restaurant to hold on to ALL left behind doggie bags until somebody claims them. The airline holds on to the doggy bag for a YEAR, and then throws them away. The miles were thrown away. End of story.,
        By the way, to the person who claims it is not a liability, you seem to have no concept of accounting or balance sheets. FF miles are a liability on the books. The ones that expire are taken off the liability side of the balance sheet. If they started haphazardly adding FF miles to every person who thought they deserved to be above the rules, they would be breaching their duty to their shareholders and other passengers who FOLLOW THE RULES.
        If your position is that he NEVER looked at his FF miles statement for over a year to make sure those flights had been added, then it is laziness on the OP’s part. Another example of people thinking everybody should do the basic things in life for them.

  5. Macgyver says:

    So, another person wants a company to bend the rules just for them, when he didn’t follow the rules in the first place.

    • rambo76098 says:

      Or, if you had read the article, his travel agent failed to put his miles account number on the booking. US Air acknowledges he took the flights, but won’t credit/extend his account.

  6. ma1234 says:

    How is it US Airways’ fault that the guy did not bother putting his mileage number on his flight records within the time limit restriction? Are you kidding me? People feel so grossly self-entitled. US Airways is a business. Miles are a liability on the books. US Airways can’t simply keep billions upon billions of miles in liability and has created a fair system that gives a frequent flier plenty of time to make sure that his miles properly accumulated.

    • DovS says:

      If you read the original article, the customer clearly states that this WAS his fault. The reason he’s taking his business elsewhere is because US Airways was really rude and unhelpful about it. Good customer service means that, sometimes, you should help customers when they make a mistake.

    • crazedhare says:

      “Miles are a liability on the books. US Airways can’t simply keep billions upon billions of miles in liability…”

      Yes they can. They specifically admit they would have if he had flown and logged the miles in 2009.

      • ma1234 says:

        They can for a short period of time, of course. An airline keeps unclaimed miles on the books for 12 MONTHS. That is more than fair!

  7. shepd says:

    OT: Can someone explain the picture to me? iast bag (probably supposed to be “last” bag)… how did the luggage end up with that?

    • MercuryPDX says:

      It’s not someone’s actual bag. It’s a “marker”… the last bag off that particular flight.

  8. corkangel76 says:

    US Airways has been voted the WORLDS worst airline and we know why, they are HELL in the sky to fly, their flight attendants don’t give a crap, and their attitude sucks too.. The world would be a better place if they folded up their doors and went away.

  9. sufreak says:

    US Airways is bar none, the worst airline ever. Every time I flew them for work, it was horrendous. I go with Continental anytime I have the chance.

    • tbax929 says:

      You prefer Continental over US Air? Wow, I guess different people have vastly different experiences! My experience has been just the opposite. I’d rank AA as my favorite airline and US Air a close second.

  10. ma1234 says:

    How is it US Airways’ fault that the guy did not bother putting his mileage number on his flight records within the time limit restriction? Are you kidding me? People feel so grossly self-entitled. US Airways is a business. Miles are a liability on the books. US Airways can’t simply keep billions upon billions of miles in liability and has created a fair system that gives a frequent flier plenty of time to make sure that his miles properly accumulated.

  11. invisibelle says:

    THE Scott Kelby? That guy’s books are excellent.

    Heh, I was just looking at an internal report done by a coworker that ranked about 10 domestic airlines on a consumer survey of various airline attributes. US Airways was frequently scored at or near the bottom, but I haven’t flown them, so I found myself wondering “yikes, what’s so bad about those guys?” Maybe this is part of the answer…

  12. Span_Wolf says:

    I can’t believe how many people here are blaming the op for a mistake of his travel agent. As if you are beholden to double check everything that the person you paid to make sure it gets done in the first place does.

    • nonzenze says:

      You really don’t understand the concept of agency. From the point of view of the airline, the agent and the principal are indistinguishable. It certainly doesn’t make any sense to say that the airline should be liable for errors committed by the agent, over which they have no control. Now, if he were complaining that the travel agency that made this mistake and asking them for compensation, I would totally agree. They messed up, it cost him money, they ought to make it right (subject to whatever legal contract the principal and the agent had).

      In law, we call this principle [i]qui facit per alium, facit per se[/i] — one who acts through (a duly authorized) other (within the scope of that authorization) acts as though for himself. http://www.duhaime.org/LegalDictionary/Q/QuiFacitPerAliumFacitPerSe.aspx

  13. mac-phisto says:

    anyone taking the company’s side on this mess obviously misses the ENTIRE point of miles. miles are all about retention & customer satisfaction. don’t bother offering them if you can’t bother yourself to make reasonable exceptions for your mileage holders – it will just burn you when a story like this hits the airwaves.

    • ma1234 says:

      You can add your FF miles to a flight you forgot to make note of for up to one year after the flight. How the heck is that not reasonable?

      Miles are a liability that airlines cannot infinitely keep.

      • andrewe says:

        To look at it from another perspective…

        This airline that is striving for excellence had an entire years to notice that one of it’s frequent fliers had taken 2 trips with them and had a year to let him know they needed his frequent flier number. I’m not sure how the OP was supposed to notice the omission himself since he had a travel agent book the flight.

        • NeverLetMeDown says:

          How did they know it was him? Without the FF #, all they knew was that some guy named Scott Kelby flew with them. Maybe it was the same guy, maybe not. What if it had been John Smith, should they just have emailed every John Smith with a FF # with them, and said “hey, was this you?”

          Also, if he flew with them twice (which of course they couldn’t verify) in two years, he’s by no means a “frequent flier.”

        • nonzenze says:

          The agent’s error in this case are the responsibility of the traveler, not the airline. The agent works for the traveler, not the agent.

          He has a good case for compensation from them for messing up, not the airline for simply following the crystal-clear rules.

  14. Nick1693 says:

    US Airways also told me they notified me before my miles expired. Search GMail. Nothing. “Whoops, nothing we can do.”

  15. Pax says:

    How many of those do you think we’ll be booking on US Airways going forward?

    PWNED. >:)

  16. lordargent says:

    I just flew on US Airways, and my takeaway is.

    Why did you bother having me select my seats on your web site and then send me an e-mail confirming my ticket and assigned seats, only to randomly assign me a seat when I checked in?

    Thanks for wasting 10 minutes of my time.

  17. TPA says:

    /me rests his head in his hands…. I really miss the pre-deregulation days. This sort of crap (including the TSA’s bullmanure) didn’t happen back then.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Really? You really miss the regulated days? Well, unless you routinely fly paid first class (where the premium to coach has expanded dramatically), you’d be paying a LOT more for your seat. In inflation-adjusted terms, average airfares dropped about 30% 1979-1990.

      Also, air travel has gotten much safer since deregulation (doesn’t mean cause and effect, but certainly there’s no evidence for the contrary assertion), and fuel economy has improved dramatically (since airlines now actually benefit from lower fuel costs and suffer from higher fuel costs).

  18. AEN says:

    Since US Airways trashed my miles I never fly them. Don’t really care if it’s my fault or theirs.

  19. Starrion says:

    A lot of the comments are missing the point. US AIrways is a craptastic hellhole of an airline and now the OP won’t be flying with them.

    YAY! for the OP. No more flying through the vortex of suck that is PHL. US Airways is the zombie corporation that is continually teetering on the brink of failure waiting for something to push it into the grave, but keeps staggering back out. One more day of mistreating flyers, losing luggage, losing track of miles, losing the record of the lost luiggage.

    If the pack of drooling chimps that handle the bags at PHL haven’t lost it, then they have simply crushed the bag. Presuming the keepers from the zoo haven’t collected them all up.

    So YAY! for the OP. Find a better airline.

  20. roscoe says:

    When the priority is the stockholder and the CEO’s need for Italian cultured marble showers larger than my home the customer is left with the remains of just enough go make it work in most cases. On the other hand I’ve seen lots of spoiled rotten cry babies who expect it all and expect it yesterday but these are probably in the minority. In this case, is it so difficult to keep track of your customer’s miles if he chooses to help pay your salary or dividend? I think they do it to minimize their costs and just like the health care insurance companies set up death panels to throw the dying off their books for something as ridiculous as having acne and not reporting it. The filthy rich somehow need to increase their power and yet lose their integrity and humanity.

  21. nonzenze says:

    So you didn’t add your FF# when you flew, then you didn’t add it within the after-flight grace period, and then you complained when it didn’t count towards your FF account. Brilliant! If your travel agency was supposed to do this but didn’t, you should complain to them.

    Their policy is crystal clear about the after-flight grace period to add flights. Now, if I were in charge I would just credit the guy even though he’s quite clearly in the wrong but it’s certainly not necessary for them to grant an exemption to the rules.